The question of accountability

Of Leveson verdict and the responsibility of world media



Against the backdrop of infamous 'Hackgate' scandal in Britain, Justice Lord Leveson called for an independent regulatory authority for press there. The verdict followed a year long exercise into the inquiry of phone-hacking scandal at James Murdoch's now defunct 'News of the World'. The findings in the 2,000-paged report pointed out a universally accepted classroom belief, "the press has to be accountable to public". In real world, however, this belief has no space in today's newsrooms. Exceptions apart, what majority of journalists round the world practice is completely an utter disregard to ethics and facts. We play with and risk the lives of innocent families for the sake of a by-line or story. The past decade witnessed across several instances of the lopsided journalism in India.
From infamous Radia tapes to the recent arrest of two senior journalists for their alleged role in an extortion, journalism has taken a beating. Blackmailing, extortion or  paid news phenomenon has been accepted as a norm. The fact being some 'unfortunate' hog the limelight while 'fortunate' ones get ignored. The prevalence of such cases is alarming. However, sensitive nature of the state insulate it. Strange, as it sounds, the state with around 40 percent of uneducated lot has got over 800 newspapers registered. As a result, every second man has attained the role of an 'editor'. Majority of these little known newspapers run from bedrooms of their owners. Thanks to the generous state exchequer for feeding them through advertisements.
Coming back to the broader picture, what ails journalism in India is the lack of accountability. Also, journalism is being calculated in terms of profit and loss. Jacket-pages with huge ads, celebs splashing the front-pages is what journalism is about today. Currently, what is confronted by Indian society is social and economic upheaval. The lack of healthcare, poverty, inflation, unemployment, urbanization, inequality, exploitation, fanaticism, rising suicide cases, agrarian issues, corruption, nepotism, natural calamities and other such issues are faced by people each day. And the the lack of representation of vulnerable groups of the society.
For a change, what is needed is an independent press regulatory body. I don't mean  restricting the freedom. It should be, and it is, enshrined in the constitution itself. Through the regulator, press would reflect public interest. Also, it would ensure a kind of legal guarantee for accessibility of press to the groups facing media abuse, racial, sexual, social and religious discrimination.  A code of conduct or practice would prevail to remove the decades old ills and put an end to media abuse or trial. Right to exercise of punitive actions should be the mandate of the authority against the erring ones. These measures would  raise the standard and quality of journalism in India and encourage journalistic freedom. But the entire process should come up within rather the government and Leveson verdict should form the basis of it. Leveson verdict is an unique opportunity for Indian media to take a cue. The regulation would guarantee high standards of reporting with an free press.

Lastupdate on : Wed, 2 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 2 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 3 Jan 2013 00:00:00 IST

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